Village of Pelham trustees okay buying four diesel garbage trucks, paving way for village-run collection


Oakridge Waste & Recycling website

Current contractor Oakridge Waste & Recycling will be replaced by a Village of Pelham sanitation department in January.

The Village of Pelham Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to purchase four new diesel garbage trucks. The action brings the village a big step closer to creating a sanitation department and ceasing contracting for trash collection, a plan that has been in the works since early this summer.

The move did not come without opposition. Advocacy groups and residents had called on the board to buy electric vehicles or to delay the plan until cleaner technologies can be used. Because of the opposition, the board held off voting to purchase the trucks by two weeks, but the delay didn’t change the outcome.

The trustees had already approved resolutions in July and August to sell $2.36 million in bonds, the bulk of the money designated to fund the purchase of the trucks and other equipment, including toters for all village homeowners. Toters are the type of garbage can a truck is able to automatically pick up.

The idea to bring sanitation in house took form during budgeting in early summer because of the increased costs the village has had to bear since it hired Oakridge Waste & Recycling in November 2019. That decision, made on an emergency basis, was required because the previous contractor, Waste Services Inc., lost its county license.

Local environmentalists and organizations such as EcoPel and Progressive Women of Pelham spoke out against the truck purchase before and during the previous board meeting on Sept. 14. Some said the plan was too rushed, with much of the board’s work taking place over the summer when few were around to pay attention or comment.

Residents on the Sept. 14 Zoom meeting also expressed concern over owning diesel trucks with 20-year life spans. Even if the village decides to sell the trucks earlier than that when a more sustainable option becomes feasible, they said, Pelham will still be contributing to pollution when the trucks are used elsewhere.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the village board discussed next steps in creating the sanitation department. The village plans to extend its contract with Oakridge by another year in December so Pelham will have time to plan and set up the department. The goal is to have the first garbage pickup by the Village of Pelham take place in December 2022, but Mayor Chance Mullen said if that isn’t feasible, Pelham can exercise another option year on the Oakridge contract.

“Launching this service is budget neutral—a key factor when deciding whether or not to move forward—and it will provide far more financial stability for our taxpayers over the long term,” Mullen wrote in a September letter to the community.

The mayor said Tuesday the board believes the plan is what’s best for the village and moving forward means that Pelham will be able to have the conversation on electric vehicles in the future.

During the presentation on next steps, Mullen said, “The future belongs to electric, but we’re not there yet.”